Final Five Voting to Replace Traditional Selection Process
A bipartisan bill that could potentially revolutionize Wisconsin’s congressional candidate selection process is set to undergo its first public hearing. The proposed change, known as Final Five Voting, would require voters to rank their top five candidates from all parties, rather than solely choosing between the top Democratic and Republican contenders.
Equal Opportunity for All Candidates
Final Five Voting suggests placing all candidates for a U.S. House or Senate seat together on a primary ballot, enabling the top five candidates to advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. In a memo seeking co-sponsors, the bill’s chief authors — Republican Reps. Ron Tusler and Tony Kurtz, Democratic Rep. Daniel Riemer, Republican Sen. Jesse James, and Democratic Sen. Jeff Smith — stated that the aim of Final Five Voting is not to change who gets elected, but rather to change the incentives for those who do get elected. They believe that officials elected under Final Five Voting, having been elected by and accountable to the general electorate, would be better positioned to address the country’s complex challenges.
A New Form of Ranked Choice Voting
Under the proposed bill, a form of ranked choice voting would be implemented. All candidates for a U.S. House or Senate seat would appear together on a primary ballot, regardless of their party. Voters would then rank the top five primary winners in order of preference on the general election ballots. If a candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, they would win. If no candidate secures a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated, and their supporters’ votes would be reallocated to their second-ranked choice. This process would continue until one candidate has a majority of votes. Currently, candidates can win a seat without a majority.
Bipartisan Support and Adoption in Other States
A bipartisan group of 21 lawmakers has already signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. Ranked choice voting systems have already been adopted in Maine for federal elections and state primaries since 2016, as well as in Alaska for state and federal races since 2020. While no other states have implemented this system, three counties and 45 cities across the nation have adopted it for local elections, according to FairVote. Nevada voters passed a ballot question in 2020 to implement ranked choice voting, which will take effect if passed again in 2024.
Advocates and Opponents
Advocates of the ranked choice system argue that it offers voters more choices and reduces negative campaigning, as candidates need to appeal to a broader range of voters to secure second and third-place marks. They also believe that this system gives third-party and independent candidates a fairer chance. However, opponents argue that ranked choice voting is difficult to understand and count, and that it contradicts the principle of “one person, one vote.” They also express concerns about the release of results being delayed due to multiple rounds of tabulation and voters being forced to guess which candidates will remain after each elimination round. Opponents further warn that special interests could exploit the system to manipulate rankings and results.
A Contentious Legislative Battle
Wisconsin legislators have introduced this proposal in the past two legislative sessions, but it failed to gain traction. This time, opponents of ranked choice voting are taking an offensive stance by pushing for a constitutional amendment that would outlaw this alternative voting method. They argue that Wisconsin’s election system is already complex and that ranked choice voting would only add further complications. They contend that calculations dictating outcomes may not be intuitive to every voter and that special interests could exploit the system to their advantage.
Democratic Governor Tony Evers has not yet expressed his support or opposition to ranked-choice voting, according to Britt Cudaback, his spokesperson. The fate of the bill and the potential implementation of Final Five Voting in Wisconsin will now rest on the outcome of the upcoming public hearing and subsequent legislative debates.